A couple of weeks ago we gathered together in the Two Oceans Aquarium for the launch of the Fitbit Charge 2 and Fitbit Flex 2, the latest releases from the fitness tracker brand. As a lazy sea turtle moved back and forth through the giant tank on one side I listened to all the exciting new features we could look forward to and I became increasingly eager to try it out in my own life.
Before now I’ve always looked at a fitness tracker watches with a semi-interested eye but I argued that my phone could do all of this, right? Why did I need one? I’ve been living in the device for about a month now and I do think I’ve changed my tune quite a bit.
Here’s how it has made a difference in my life.
I took it running
This has been the greatest game-changer for me. Before I received the Fitbit I used my phone to listen to music and track my run, and I found it incredibly frustrating. A phone is super bulky and uncomfortable to stick into the secret pockets inside your shorts. And those arm pouches give me the worst rash. Upon that I hate hate HATE earphone cords. They are forever tugging the earphones out and tangling under my shirt and they’re just super distracting.
I was running on the Sea Point promenade one afternoon when I finally cracked, ripped the earphones from my ears and the pouch from my arm, and instead enjoyed the sound of my feet hitting the road, the people around me, the ocean crashing beside me.
Okay so the Fitbit hasn’t solved my music problem, but it has added to this sense of freedom when I go for a run. There is something really nice about leaving my phone at home, and about starting my run with the simple push of a button. No need to fiddle with your phone to start this and that app. Press, hold, run.
The Fitbit also tracks your run as you go like most running apps would, so you can see how far you are on your route, how fast you’re running and you can keep an eye on your heart rate. I found it’s much easier to check your stats by twisting your wrist towards you than by fishing your phone from some obscure pocket.
I used it to relax during the day
I love this feature. I often find myself running around between this launch and that meeting, trying to meet all my deadlines and balance a semi-decent social life at the same time. It can get incredibly overwhelming.
Taking moments to sit still and breathe works magic, even if you only do it for five minutes at a time. The Relax feature on the Charge 2 does personalised breathing sessions. Click the side button on the Fitbit to the Relax option and hold it in to start the session. It will guide you through a two or five minute breathing session, which really helps you to take a moment and refocus before carrying on with the next task at hand.
Deep breathing is not only great to relax and focus, but also helps reduce blood pressure and lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. So yes, relaxing is as important as going for a run.
It got me moving
This is another major way the Fitbit has improved my health. By now you’ll probably have read various articles on the negative impact sitting can have on your health. If you sit for long periods at a time it can actually shorten your lifespan. Crazy, right? My problem is that I tend to loose myself in my work. I can spend hours working on posts or editing photos and videos. I only remember to get up when I feel like a cup of tea or a pee.
The Fitbit Charge 2 reminds you to get up every hour and take a few steps. Sometimes it’s annoying and disruptive, but I also know that it is a good idea to go for a quick stroll down the street and grab a coffee, or even just run up and down the stairs a few times. I also enjoyed the encouraging messages like “Nailed It” and “Solid Steppin!” that pops up once you’ve reached your goal for that round. It seems cheesy but it actually works to motivate you.
Those 10 000 steps became a daily mission!
Firstly let me just say, 10 000 steps a day is a lot! If I walk to work and back (about 2km each way), and take a stroll for lunch I will just reach 10 000 by the time I’ve finished my evening beauty routine. I’ve realised, however, that if you don’t work about 5km in somewhere you’re going to struggle. That being said, reaching the goal becomes such an obsession. Every time you hit the target the Fitbit screen errupts in shooting stars to congratulate you. It totally does the trick to motivate you for the next day!
I could track my sleeping patterns
Most of us don’t get enough sleep. Even if I try to get the recommended 8 hours sleep, I’m often restless during the night which means that I wake up tired and groggy. If you sleep with the Charge 2 it will track your sleep, showing you when you woke up or when you were restless, and also how long you’ve slept that night. How does this help?
You can set a sleep schedule with the Fitbit app which aims to help you sleep better. For instance it helps to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day to create a consistent pattern for your body.
Other plus points
The Fitbit Charge 2 has quite a few more cool features. I run a lot so that was the main exercise I tracked but you can also use multisport to track various exercise types, giving you stats on your workout. It can also map your runs or rides by using the GPS on your smartphone allowing you to see your route.
Another cool feature is the fitness tracker, which measures your overall cardiovascular fitness. If you wear your tracker when you sleep it will use that resting heart rate as a base along with your gender and age. Knowing your fitness score is a great motivation to get off your butt a little more.
On the flipside
For the most part using the Fitbit Charge 2 has been a great experience. I did notice it sometimes tracks runs incorrectly, for instance when I ran the Cape Town 10 it measured the run as 12km. All I can think is that it sensed extra steps somewhere (maybe I am a fervent arm waver?). On all my other runs it gave me accurate results though.
On another occasion I had just started my run when the screen went a bit wacko, overlapping all the running stats. Again this has only happened once and when I completed the run it went back to normal.
I know that most phones can offer you more or less the same tracking technology, but then you have to carry your phone around at all times and that’s neither realistic or healthy. Sometimes it’s good to take a break from screen-time. So overall I think it’s a worthwhile purchase. It has certainly improved my life.
The Fitbit Charge 2 retails for around R2999 and is available at fitness shops and myistore.co.za